Travel Weekly's Cruise E-letter: September 6, 2005

THREE CREW MEMBERS on Royal Caribbean International's Monarch of the Seas died on Sept. 2 after being exposed to some sort of gaseous substance, according to a spokeswoman for the Los Angeles Fire Department. Twelve additional crew members were treated for symptoms ranging from eye watering to difficulty breathing; three were transferred to local hospitals, the spokeswoman said. The incident occurred at 9:15 a.m. as passengers were disembarking the Monarch in Los Angeles. No passengers were affected by the gas. Airborne gases overtook the three crew while replacing a section of pipe connected to the ships sewage system, Royal Caribbean International said. The fire department on Sept. 2 was investigating to determine the nature of the gases.

CARNIVAL CRUISE LINES said its Carnival Conquest, which has been homeported in New Orleans since its 2002 debut, will sail from Galveston, Texas, "indefinitely." The Conquest will sail seven-day cruises from Galveston to its scheduled port calls: Montego Bay, Jamaica; Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands; and Cozumel, Mexico. Conquest passengers who are fully deposited or booked as of Sept. 1 will recieve a $50 per-person shipboard credit. Passengers who opt to cancel will receive a full refund.

CRUISE SHIPS AS FLOATING HOTELS? Cruise lines in Miami each said they were considering how, and if, cruise ships could be converted to house Katrina refugees or recovery workers. Royal Caribbean Cruises CEO Richard Fain told Travel Weekly that his company had been talking to state and federal agencies "to see if there's some way to make a difference." Meanwhile, Carnival Cruise Lines said last week it had received an "initial inquiry" from the federal government about using cruise ships for Katrina relief efforts. "Although to undertake such an endeavor would involve many complicated issues, we are actively taking a look at it," the line said in a statement.

THE LOGISTICS ALONE -- of turning the vessels into floating hotels -- may prove tough. Although an initial assessment last week by port officials showed that many of the wharves were relatively intact, the Mississippi River last week was closed except to shallow-draft vessels like tugs and barges and recovery boats. Then there is the issue of costs, including refunding passengers currently booked on ships and provisioning the vessels. Industry veteran Rod McLeod suggested it might make more sense to use the ships as temporary housing for relief workers: "At some point in time, if they're not able to rehabilitate some hotels, maybe for the first responders, put them on a cruise ship."
 
NEW ORLEANS-BASED
Delta Queen Steamboat Co. continued to operate through the storm -- all three of its ships were sailing "up-river" itineraries during Katrina and the storm's aftermath. Some reservations staff was relocated to the Buffalo, N.Y. headquarters of Delta Queen's parent company. And president Bruce Nierenberg promised the line would continue to operate, albeit on the Upper Mississippi and the Ohio rivers, through the fall.

ROYAL CARIBBEAN INTERNATIONAL, a master of onboard gadgetry, rolled out its latest: A surfing machine. The device, called a FlowRider, shoots a powerful sheet of water up an incline, and participants grab Flowboards (looks like a snowboard, acts like a surfboard) or Boogie boards and "surf" down and around on the water. The FlowRider is in waterparks and resorts around the world, but this will be its first on-water debut. It will show up on the Freedom of the Seas, which debuts in May.

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